6 Things We Wish for Philly’s Dining Scene in 2019
What the Philly Mag food team is hoping to see in Philadelphia's restaurant scene in the new year.
With 2018 nearly behind us, the Foobooz team sat down and came up with a list of things we’d like to see way more of in 2019. Let’s call it a last-minute wish list.
Better restaurant names
Philly has some of the most creative restaurant minds in the country, except for when it comes to naming their restaurants. Either chefs and restaurateurs are taking themselves too seriously (no more last names, please), or they’re branding their concepts too literally (you don’t have to spell it out for us — half the fun is figuring it out your thing for ourselves). Why not have fun with it? Let’s get weird. New York has Ugly Baby, Portland has Drifters Wife, Detroit has Lady of the House — those names all pique your curiosity, don’t they? And they don’t give anything away, either. — Alex Tewfik
Adding some greenery can improve the atmosphere of just about any dining establishment. While there are lots of places in Philly who make sure to keep their ornamental plants looking healthy and beautiful, many restaurants need to take better care of their plants in 2019. Pick varieties like pothos, ZZ plant, and snake plant that are nearly impossible to kill, rather than trendy succulents or finicky fiddle-leaf figs. No matter how good they look on the ‘gram now, they’ll soon be sad and shriveled without the proper care and conditions. If you must decorate your space with the trendy plant of the moment, make sure you’ve got a green-thumbed staffer to take care of it properly — or bring in the professionals to keep things looking lush and green. — Alexandra Jones
Our very own fad
Please, for the love of god, stop filling your damn menus with lazy versions of last year’s cool. This means no more shishitos, no more fine-dining donuts, way less crudo. Get out there and invent something new. Do the thing that everyone else in the country is going to be copying next year. You’ve got the talent. All you’ve got to do is let it shine. — Jason Sheehan
Exposed bad behavior
While #MeToo first hit the restaurant world in a big way with allegations of sexual harassment by New Orleans chef John Besh in the fall of 2017, 2018 was the year that the industry as a whole started to grapple with the sexism, homophobia, and physical and sexual abuse that’s been accepted, even celebrated, in restaurant culture for decades. Big-name chefs and restaurateurs in New York, San Francisco, Houston, and Washington — and Philadelphia — were exposed for their harmful and illegal behavior. Most faced professional and financial consequences.
Despite the attention that’s been paid to this, anyone who’s spent even a little time in or around restaurants knows that this behavior will continue to be widespread for the foreseeable future. I’m wishing for more #MeToo stories to come to light in 2019 to strip the industry’s abusers and enablers of their power over employees’ lives and livelihoods. — Alexandra Jones
No more Italian
Classic, South Philly, modern, rustic, authentic — I don’t care. No more. We don’t need it.
Listen, I get it. I get why it keeps happening. Italian cuisine is versatile. Every chef loves cooking Italian (seasonal, hand-made, simple ingredients and techniques). And Philly diners have a palate for Italian, so opening the business is less of a risk. But the market is too saturated. All your homemade pastas are starting to taste the same. Let’s pull back a bit, and focus our efforts on diversifying the scene a little more. This town could use more of, quite literally, any other cuisine. — Alex Tewfik
If you’ve got something that you do better than anyone else (chicharron, scallion pancakes, barbecue, donuts, whatever), do that thing and then figure out a way to get it into people’s hands quickly, easily and cheaply. Not that one thing PLUS appetizers. Not the thing plus tablecloths and wine. Just the thing, got me? Pizza Gutt, Goldie, Redcrest, Mike’s BBQ — all places that have made this work. And I’d love to see a hundred more concepts like this in Philly — a total revolution in the way restaurants operate. Because we’re due one, I think. And maybe this will be the year. — Jason Sheehan